My Dearest Little Man,
Someday, you will want to remember your first day of kindergarten. By then, my memory might be in pieces or shadows will come to replace realities. Therefore, I am writing this now so nothing is forgotten.
We spent Labor Day weekend at Nonna and Grandpa’s house. While we were there, as always, they treated you like a little prince, granting each of your wishes and giving into your every desire. You swam at the beach, watched lots of movies and ate lots of treats. But a sadness, a foreboding, seemed to settle over you as the weekend drew to a close. On Saturday night, when your grandparents took us out to dinner to celebrate my birthday, Grandpa commented that you looked close to tears. Full time school, meant less weekends at the beach house with Nonna and Grandpa throughout the year, and that alone seemed reason enough for you not to want to go to school. I could relate. Thinking back to summers when I was a child, Labor Day Weekend held the somberness of a funeral. I hated the end of summer, the end of freedom, and the beginning of endless hours of homework that cut into my play time.
Driving home from New York, we talked about school and I tried to sound optimistic and excited for your benefit, but we all know I’ve never been a good actress. The world knows how I feel every moment of every day. I searched my memory, hoping to locate one happy moment I spent in school, one exciting event, but I came up empty. Elementary school and middle school were mountains of misery in my otherwise happy childhood. Students were mean and relentlessly made fun of me. My teachers ensured that reading and writing were the most boring activates on earth. And instead of being able to run around for hours every day, I was forced to sit still as if tied to my desk, staring out the window and yearning for the sun. Yuck. But for you, I had to fain happiness and pretend that school would bring friendships, opportunities and excitement. I’m afraid I wasn’t terribly convincing. As we crossed over from the Long Island Expressway to the Northern State Parkway, you said, “I hope it snows tomorrow. If it snows, I will get a snow day and then I won’t have to go to school the first day.” The sun was beating down on my car. Outside the temperature was soaring into the nineties. Snow was not even a remote possibility, but you didn’t care. You were still young enough to believe that anything, if you thought about it hard enough, was possible.
For awhile you said silently in the back, looking pensive as you stared out the window. Then your voice, not much more than whisper, pulled at my ear. “I am nervous about starting school and meeting new people,” you confessed.
I smiled, looking at you in the rearview mirror. “I know how you feel. I was really nervous last summer when I started school at FDU. “
He shook his head, positive that I couldn’t relate, “But you knew Carrie.”
“No,” I chuckled, remembering the anxiety that nearly kept me home, kept me from following through with my plan to attend graduate school. “I met Carrie last summer.”
“When you were nervous?”
“Yes. I met her when I was nervous.”
“And now she is your friend?” You asked, needing clarification.
“Yes,” I nodded, happy that I could settle on a memory to share, happy that I could think of school fondly and not as a torture chamber.
“So maybe I’ll make new friends,” the beginnings of a smile tugged at the corners of your lips. “I’m still nervous, but I feel better.”
The rest of the day passed in a blur of activity. You and mommy ran some last minute errands, picking up lunch for school, your first lunch away from home. At night, as we were getting ready for bed, we climbed the stairs to my room, a stack of books in my hands to read to you as I read every night. Before I could turn on the light and the fan, you were jumping on the bed.
“Please don’t jump so close to the edge of the bed,” I said as I sat down.
“Why?” With you it is always why.
“Because I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“Because I don’t want you to miss your first day of school.” That was the absolute wrong thing to say. You inched closer to the edge, looked down at the floor and got ready to dive.
“Do not jump!”
“But I don't want to go to school. I want to spend time with you. When I go to school I won't see you anymore.”
“ That's not true. We will spend time together every day.” I love spending time with you and I couldn’t phantom a day when we didn’t do something together.
“Every morning we will have breakfast together and every night we will read together. You will read to me and I'll read to you.” You were much more excited by the prospect of being read to.
“Do you promise?” You asked, your voice close to breaking.
“Yes,” I held out my arms and gave you a hug.
“ I still don't want to go to school. My teacher won't be as smart as you, or Mommy or Nonna. Grandpa was never a teacher so maybe she will be as smart as grandpa.” I laughed. Except for a year of Sunday school, Nonna was never a teacher either. But if the teacher turns out as smart as Grandpa that won’t be so bad.
This morning, you were still sound asleep at 7:15. I hated having to wake you, but you needed to eat and get dressed for school. Slowly, you opened your eyes and smiled at me. As if wanting to stay little for just a moment longer, you asked me to carry you into the living room and I did. You watched Jake and the Neverland Pirates while I got breakfast ready. And you ate outside on the patio skyping Nonna and Grandpa while you ate. Suddenly, in the middle of the conversation you got excited about school. Taking one last bite of cereal you announced that you had to wash your face, comb your hair and brush your teeth. You kissed your grandparents goodbye and bounded off to the bathroom.
After you finished making yourself handsome, you called me into the bathroom to weave your padawan braid. It is still stubby, but it is long enough to make you feel as though you are joining the ranks of Obi-Wan and Anakin. With your hair ready, you got dressed and then it was time to go. You grabbed your Star Wars backpack and Star Wars lunch bag and we went outside to take pictures. How could I not record the day? I then drove you to school and by the time we pulled into the parking lot you were exploding with excitement. You practically ran to the door and when it was time to line up I kissed you goodbye. As you walked inside you were smiling. I took three steps and the tears came pouring down my cheeks.
Driving home the car felt so empty and when I got home the house felt desolate. I missed you so much. I tried to keep busy by writing, working on my own homework assignment but I kept thinking about you and hoping you were having a good day, so my attention was shot. I accomplished little. For me, lunch was the hardest. It was the first time I ate alone during the week in nearly six years. I missed your chatter and your company.
By three-thirty, I was back at school – with your bicycle - waiting to pick you up. I had sent an email, notifying the school that I would pick you up and I told you not to get on the bus, that I would be there for you. Of course, the email was ignored, but you refused to get on the bus. Thank you for listening. When you saw me, you bolted out the door and dove into my arms, giving me a big hug. You were smiling - a good sign.
As you biked – and I walked – back to the car, I asked you how your day went. You told me it wasn’t as boring as you expected it to be. “We didn’t read and write all day. I got to do centers and I went out for recess.” I asked you what you did for centers and you said you played with the kitchen and you made things. You then stopped biking, asked me for your bag and opened it to show me what you made. You made me a heart. Tears slipped into my eyes again but I wiped them away before you saw them.
I asked if you made any friends and you said that you did. You got along with the girl who sits at your table. When I asked you what her name was you offered your classic response, “I forgot.”
While I pushed you on the swing near the parking lot, you said that even though your day wasn’t absorbed with work, you did do some reading. At one point you were pulled from the class to be tested, only you didn’t know it was a test. I asked you if the reading was hard and you laughed, “No, it was easy, very easy.” You then proceeded to tell me the story, and how it was much easier than Mercy Watson but a little harder than Biscuit.
Mommy had to work late, but she called to find out how your day was. When she asked you if you made friends or if you where shy you said, “I wasn’t shy at all. I walked into the room and boom! My brain almost burst it was so easy.” I’m glad the social anxiety you were felling melted away so quickly.
One girl, the girl who sat across from you, your new friend, you told me, said that braids were just for girls. You were very sad. But I told you that what she said was not true. Boys could wear braids if they want them. “But,” you argued, “She said girls should have long hair and boys should have short hair.”
I looked at you and pointed to my own head. “I have short hair and Nonna has short hair. And Jedis have braids.”
“Yes, Jedi’s have braids,” you were smiling again. “But mine has to get longer. I hope it grows longer by Halloween.”
“It will, but it might be another year before it is as long as Obi-Wan’s.”
It is now long passed your bedtime. You are in your room and in bed but you are wired and still excited from your first day. My wish for you is that school continues to be fun, that you learn lots and that you continue to make friends.